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December 09, 2019

Food safety: from farm to PLATE make food SAFE

The above mentioned theme is meant for World Health Day 2015 which falls on coming Tuesday 7th April, this is, on the birthday of World Health Organization (WHO), WHO constitution was adopted unanimously by UN member nations on 7th April 1948, and selected 7th April as World Health Day to be celebrated all over the world. As such, 7th April 2015 is 67th annual occasion. Today WHO has 193 member nations, including Myanmar.  Myanmar joins WHO on first July 1948, soon after its existence, whose headquarters situates in Geneva, Switzerland.
Every year, the World Health Organization selects a priority area of global public health concern as the theme for World Health Day.
The theme for World Health Day 2015, Food Safety is a theme of high relevance to all people on the planet, and multiple stakeholders, including government, civil society, the private sector, an intergovernmental agencies, WHO states.
Safe food underpins but is distinct from food security. Food safety is an area of public health action to protect consumers from the risks of food poisoning and food-borne diseases, acute or chronic. Unsafe food can lead to range of health problems: diarrhoeal disease, viral disease (the first Ebola cases were linked to contaminated bush meat); reproductive and developmental problems, cancers. Food safety is thus a prerequisite for food security, WHO statement continues.
New threats to food safety are constantly emerging. Changes in food production, distribution and consumption (i.e. intensive agriculture, globalization of food trade, mass catering and street food), changes to the environment, new and emerging bacteria and toxins, antimicrobial resistance—all increase the risk that food becomes contaminated. Increases in travel and trade enhance the likelihood that contamination can spread, WHO noted.
The World Health Organization helps and encourages countries to prevent, detect and respond to food-borne disease outbreaks-in line with the Codex Alimentarius, a collection of international food standards, guidelines and codes of practice covering all the main foods. Recognizing that food safety is a cross-cutting issue and shared responsibility, the World Health Organization welcomes the participation of non-public health sectors i.e. agriculture, trade and commerce, environment, standardization) in this campaign and seeks support of major international and regional agencies and organizations active in the fields of food, emergency aid, and education, it is learnt.
World Health Day 2015 is an opportunity to alert governments, manufacturers, retailers and the public to the importance of food safety—and the part each can play in ensuring that the food on peoples’ plates is safe to eat, it is believed.
Access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food is key to sustaining life and promoting good health. Unsafe food—containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances—causes more than 200 diseases, ranging from diarrhea to cancers! Another alarming fact is Food-borne and waterborne diarrhoeal diseases kill an estimated 2 million people annually, including many children. Food safety, nutrition and food security are inextricably linked. Unsafe food creates a vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition, particularly affecting infants, young children, the elderly and the sick. Food-borne diseases impede socioeconomic development by straining health care systems, and harming national economies, tourism and trade. Food now crosses multiple national borders from where it is produced to where it is consumed. Good collaboration among governments, producers and consumers helps ensure food safety.
2015 World Health Day theme aims to spur governments to improve food safety through public awareness campaigns and highlight their ongoing actions in this area. Another aim is to encourage consumers to ensure the food on their plate is safe by asking questions, checking labels, following hygiene tips etc.
WHO has set a timeline for World Health Day 2015 as:
(a)    February – March: launch social media drive, including promotion of multimedia material (video and public service announcement)
(b)    7 April: World Health Day
(c)    1 May – 31 Oct: Milano EXPO 2015, with the theme of “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”, offers a prime opportunity to reinforce the messages of this campaign. During this period, there will be as number of food safety related side events organized in Italy and elsewhere.
(d)    6-7 July: Codex Alimentarius Commission (CICG, Geneva) enforcement.
(e)    October: Publication and launch of WHO global food-borne disease burden estimates which surely be of prime value for public health.
WHO proposes a guideline for policy makers as to make safe food a top priority and to integrate food safety into broader food policy, integrate food safety into nutrition and food security policies and programmes. So also to build trust through sound and transparent communications, ensure transparent communication between risk assessors, risk managers and risk communicators, promote awareness and understanding of food safety issues among the general public and to design educational campaigns targeting food handlers and the consumers.
Guideline calls for foster multi-sectoral collaboration to achieve sustainable and solid food systems, foster closer collaboration between the various sectors involved in food (agriculture, human health, animal health, trade, tourism, etc.) to strengthen prevention, control and response to food-borne diseases, to promote the appropriate involvement of all interested parties and to build networks that are prepared to respond efficiently to food safety emergencies.
WHO suggests to think globally, act locally. Our food supply is global and food produced in one place may be sold on the other side of the world. A strengthened food safety system in one country positively impacts the safety of food in other countries. Utilizing global networks (e.g. INFOSAN) to efficiently communicate during international food safety emergencies should be considered.
Food control division of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Department under Ministry of Health, Myanmar is mainly concerned with food safety and quality, pre-market assessment as well as post-market surveillance, source says. Food control activities are conducted in line with the National Food Law, regulations, orders and directives, complies with Codex guidelines and standards. Myanmar is an active participant in ASEAN Task Force on Codex Committee, it is learnt.
May all planet citizens, includi ng Myanmar ever achieve positive food safety.

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